Bringing the Bible to life for students requires us to pull out all the stops and offer as many creative entry points as we can. This script does just that. This monologue, first performed at Youth 19, shows us the story of the prodigal son through the eyes of his mother.
As boys, my sweet oldest boy would spend all morning staring at the tree! As I was cleaning up breakfast, he’d be out there walking around the tree. Later, as I was sweeping the floor, I’d see him standing so close to that tree, you would think he was hugging it! In the afternoon, while I was working in the garden, he slowly backed away from the tree, never taking his eyes off of it. I’d ask him, “What are you doing ?”
“Nothing momma, just looking”. I’d just nod my head and know when he was ready, he’d let me know. That’s how he has always been, careful, measured, thoughtful. Meanwhile, as soon as little brother could crawl, he’s has been trying to get up that tree. And would you know it, as much time as his brother spent looking at it finding the best way up there, he spent his time, falling out of it. I swear I thought he was going to break his neck. The day his baby brother got to the top, do you know what he did? He sulked all day! I told him, if he wants to reach the top, then he needs to start climbing. He looked at that tree for one more day. I thought for sure he’d give it a climb just to put his brother in his place as the second born. But no, not him, he never looked at the tree again, and between you and me, I actually think he avoids it to this day. Whenever I ask him about climbing trees, he just says he has better things to do with his time. I don’t know what “better things” he has going on, there is nothing to do here anymore. That old tree is dead, like so much here. All that is left is that big ol’ stump.
Since the land has dried up, the tree died and we had to cut it down. Not too long after that, my baby boy and his dad had a talk sitting right on that stump. They sat there for a while. I seemed to not be going too well, but I knew it wasn’t my place to say anything, that just upsets everyone. I tried to find something to busy myself close by so I could hear the men folk talk.
Men folk— that gets me every time thinking of my youngest son as a man. He will always be my little boy. And look at his life, he makes decisions just as he did as a child, without much thought, and just as quick as Yahweh would allow him. At first, my husband seemed angry and disappointed as they were talking. But by the end I could see once again he wore his father down. This is what my husband doesn’t understand, my Baby Boy has learned, listened and seen how his father makes decisions with his brother. He doesn’t have time for all that waiting, explaining, and pondering. He wants it now and he has figure out how to best handle his dad.
Then I waited. I waited and waited and waited. I wanted him to tell me. I needed to know what was going on, this was my son too! What does my son want, what did my husband decide? I was in the dark.
Darkness! That’s what I’ll do, I’ll wait until darkness to ask him. I scrounged around to find some things to cook his favorite dinner. We don’t have what we used to have, but I traded with the nosey neighbor to get lentils, seasoned with my garlic and onions sauce. Luckily, it was harvest time so I was able to get some grapes and figs, and I pinched a bit of the wine from the business to put him in a good mood. This is the place where I’m in charge. We eat as family every night, this is my favorite part of the day. They talk amongst themselves, and as I am serving everyone, I can hear what is really going on with them and our family. We sit and talk for two to three hours every night catching up with one another.
I wait until it is just husband and myself. In the darkness, I gently begin to ask, “So what does he want? What did you talk about with him at the stump”? It is there my husband tells me what our son wants. My mind starts racing with questions. Can you believe him! Do you see anyone else around here getting a family inheritance who isn’t a first born boy? Does he just assume it is here for the taking? Does he want my husband to die so he can have his money? What about me? Who will take care of me when my husband dies? I hope, I pray that my oldest son won’t forget about me. I don’t want to have to beg like the women on the street. And right now, what would I be begging for? There is not much to eat even to eat let alone give away? He almost is wishing for all us to be dead! It seems to me he doesn’t want to be part of our family story any longer. What have I done? How have I failed them? I just can’t watch my son destroy himself. He hasn’t even considered how this will affect the rest of our family. What will the aunties and uncles say? Can you imagine what the villagers will whisper? Our family has been so respected in this community. They will say we didn’t raise him right, to respect his elders and give his family honor. He has shamed us. I know for sure the nosey neighbor will find someway to find out everything that is going on and gossip our family business everywhere. I can see her now, mouth hanging open so wide flies could land on her tongue. Rolling her eyes at what he’s done. Every village, every Hebrew School, and yes, even every family, has had a problem like this at some point. Not all of them are as well known as our family, but it happens. Maybe they didn’t ask for their inheritance but they too have squandered. Squandered money, or their youth, but of course we will be the ones everyone wants to talk about.
So this is how I spend my days now. I don’t have little children to watch and tend over, no crumps to sweep up because we have very little to eat so nothing falls on the floor. I sit here and just stare at that stump. I long for the days that my boys bickered and my daughter begged to play with them, I know that seems odd for a mother to wish, but I need my family back together. Not worry about everyone gossiping about us. All I seem to do now, is worry. Worry about my son who is too young to be an adult in the world, but too old to be a child at home. I worry about my oldest son, his bitterness, his silence, his anger. It is just below the surface. I am so worried he is a powder keg about to explode. He is too young to be this angry about life. And my husband, oh how I worry about him. How is he going to feel if something does goes wrong? How’s he going feel then. Can he live with this decision he’s made for our whole family? I’m conflicted about how I feel about it all.